LOVE ALONE IS CREDIBLE
by Hans urs von Balthasar
(Ignatius, 2004, 153pp, $29.95. Available from AD Books)
This book is the newest translation of von Balthasar's work. In it he delves deeply into the exploration he began in his masterpiece, The Glory of the Lord, of what love means and what makes the divine love of God.
To understand this love, he says we must become lovers of God following in the footsteps of saints like Francis de Sales, John of the Cross and Thérèse of Lisieux. He writes: "Lovers are the ones who know most about God; the theologian must listen to them".
This is a book that provides deep insights and profound theological meditations upon the topic of love. Although at times the language is deeply philosophical, patient reading and contemplation serve to deepen and inform the faith of the reader.
Von Balthasar writes: "... man possesses love insofar as love possess him". Love must possess the innermost heart of man and must then "reorganise" him. Man is then able to be a fragrance of Christ in the world, one that announces something of the infinity of love.
In discussing love von Balthasar refers frequently to the bride-bridegroom relationship of Christ and the Church. The sacraments, he says, are "the immediate articulation of the bridegroom's love for his bride", and we the faithful are the recipients of this love. In describing "Love as Deed", he proclaims the Eucharist as "contemplation in love and the communion of love with love", and that it is only from this celebration that one can begin Christian mission in the world.
He explains that it is the love of Christ manifest in man which enables the Christian to choose an externally analogous path - he does not do it to perfect himself nor to find perfect happiness, but does it for love's sake - because within that love his self-sacrifice has meaning for God and humanity. This is in great contrast to the Buddhist monk who seeks to achieve wisdom and perfect happiness by giving away all worldly possessions.
Love Alone is Credible is a highly recommended book for those who seek to understand more the deep spiritual truths and mysteries of love. Von Balthasar definitely gives us something to think about in understanding the love of God and man's response to this divine love in Christ.
Dr Kerrie Allen is the Research Officer for the Australian Family Association.